The horrors of war have been well documented. Trauma, commitment, and camaraderie have been played out in films for years. What is rarely shown, are the partners who are left behind. The women who are experiencing isolation, worry and depression, who are left to fend for themselves while their husbands are deployed on active service.
Set in an English garrison, Military Wives opens with the regiment deployment to Afghanistan and how each wife handles the departure. Packing her husband’s belongings away works for one, while marking the days off on a calendar works for another. Immediately, your thoughts are with these women who face six months alone, often not knowing where their partners are, or even if they are still alive.
As the film builds you warm to the mismatch of characters. Kristin Scott Thomas as Kate, the colonel’s wife, who initially clashes with Lisa, played by Sharon Horgan, the commanding officer’s wife; the young woman who married her childhood sweetheart just before deployment; the mother of young children explaining where their father is. Seeing these characters build and the challenges that army life has, gives us a new appreciation of those left on the home front.
The story won’t be unknown to you if you have seen Gareth Malone’s Military Wives Choir. To relieve boredom and depression, the women come together to form a choir. It’s been proven that singing helps to alleviate depression and anxiety and helps unite and support people. To see these women who struggle with singing publicly at first, come together to create a powerful force and overcome nerves, is a joy in itself.
The characters and casting are well matched, with Sharon Horgan giving Kristin Scott Thomas a run for her money as the lead actress. The supporting cast are completely believable and it’s impossible not to shed a tear when the women experience extreme lows and joyous highs. The film is a rollercoaster of emotions. It’s impossible not to feel for women who have lost their loved ones in such tragic circumstances.
Although Peter Cattaneo has a well tried and tested formula – he was the director of The Full Monty – Military Wives is refreshing in that it is an almost entirely a female cast. Seeing women come together and bond, supporting each other through the highs and lows, with a backdrop of popular songs, that we all know the words to, is uplifting and deeply moving at the same time.
I was invited to see Military Wives at the Vue Leicester Square, I took my daughter Charlotte to the screening. We thoroughly enjoyed the film and were totally absorbed in the unique situation these women experience. It’s uplifting to see women supporting women, taking part in an activity that unites and levels them, and to go on to become a global sensation. The first Military Choir formed in 2011, had a number one hit at Christmas that year, and went on to inspire 75 more choirs around the country. It’s a wonderful story that although adapted, is closely based on the truth. It makes you laugh and cry in equal measure. You will leave with the songs in your head and your thoughts with the wives of serving officers. It is a feel-good film and who doesn’t want to see more of those.
As we left the cinema, tissues in hand, Charlotte said that she never used to cry watching films when she was younger. I replied that then, she didn’t have anything to lose. These women had everything to lose.
Military Wives is released in UK cinemas on 6th March 2020